You and your partner may have lived in a blissful state for years where everything is lovely and happy, and nothing seems difficult. At a certain point, though, it may be time to pay attention to red flags to look out for in your long-term relationship. If things start to seem different, and you can't really put your finger on, then definitely pay more attention to you and your partner's habits in your relationship. If it's just something you feel in your gut, or an exact behavior or mood that has you feeling like things aren't the same — either way, something's probably up.
Long-term relationships all have periods where you and your partner aren't head-over-heels into each other. Sometimes you get busy with work or kids or life and distance creeps in. Healthy relationships bounce back from these periods; they're just part of the ebb and flow of a long life together. But there are some behaviors that are more than just a lull in your bliss bubble. Some behaviors present blaring red flags that things aren't headed in a positive direction. These relationship red flags are more than just bad moods or a busy schedule overwhelming your senses. They're clues that serious trouble may be on the horizon. The National Association of Social Workers looked at why long-term marriages ended and found a minefield of reasons ranging from couples simply growing apart to abuse. Not all of these things are deal breakers, of course, and they can all happen even in healthy, happy relationships. But they’re worth noting, especially if you’re really invested in nurturing your relationship so it lasts for the long, long haul. Here are five red flags to keep an eye out for if you're in a long-term relationship.
1. You Feel In Your Gut That Something Is Off
You've been with your person forever, so you know them pretty well. If you can't really explain why, but you feel in your gut that something's not right, deal with it right now. Figure out why things are off in your relationship before annoyances turn into problems that turn into resentments that turn into hurdles too high to jump. Decision making researcher Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, found that in matters of the heart, you're often better trusting your gut than your brain. And that's science telling you to trust you gut. Can't argue with science.
2. Your Partner Is Particularly Defensive
Is your person suddenly super defensive about everything all the time? This is often a coping mechanism for underlying guilt. It's also a way for your partner to blame you for his or her own feelings, according to relationship coach Shirley Vollett. That's not healthy. At the very least, it can mean there's something your partner's mad about but hasn't brought up yet. Better to face it head-on and have a heart-to-heart about what's going on.
3. There Are Signs of Abuse
A lot of abusers have a clever ruse where they treat you like gold long enough to get you married off, isolated and dependent on them, according to New Hope for Women, a site aiming to end domestic abuse towards women. One day, the fantasy is shattered when something little sets a person off. Run. You can justify this behavior till the cows come home, but it will only get worse and harder to leave. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has advocates who can help you develop a safety plan and and an escape plan. Any form of abuse is always a major red flag, without exception.
4. Sneakiness Is Becoming An Issue
Is your partner acting shady out of the blue? Being gone a lot, late at night? Hiding or putting security locks on his phone or computer? Having secretive, whispery conversations? Maybe they're planning your surprise birthday party. Or maybe he or she is cheating on you. Life is not a TV show. Don't try to play detective or plan elaborate traps. Just get it out and talk about it right now. And do it in person. Relationship website Love Is Respect, created by the Department of Health and Human Services, points out that texting and letters leave too much room for miscommunication. So dust off your big girl panties and do it face to face.
5. There Are Frequent Silences
Do you sit in silence at restaurants, and not because you're tired? Stopped having sex? Just kind of co-existing on separate couches when you're home? These things happen in all relationships at some point, but they don't usually last for long periods of time. If you don't find a way to reconnect, spark your romance, become friends again and talk to each other about your feelings, you're going to create a distance that's really hard to recover from. It takes a lot of work to keep a relationship from dying — work that you both have to do, every single day. John M. Grohol, Psy.D. recommends taking your conversations deeper than the usual "how are you?" or "how was work?" Instead, regularly talk about your feelings, hopes, fears — delve deeper than surface topics to rekindle closeness.
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